|Research and networking in the West
|Participants were Tof Ojul
Islam (Black Environment Network), Anand Birju (Hindu Council), Teresa
Haddon (Birmingham Foodlinks,(Paul Benham (organic farmer and project
director), Chris Stockdale (Biodynamic farmer and coordinator for Herefordshire
Organic Producers group), Elaine Brook (Gaia Partnership)
Emma Hockridge (MSc Advocacy, Holme Lacy College).
The discussion explored a
list of foods in demand among the ethnic communities in Birmingham and
the potential possibilities for being able to grow them in suitable quantities
in the soils and climate of Herefordshire.
|The agricultural industry
has taken a significant economic down turn in recent years. The government
is encouraging farmers to reconnect with consumers and markets, and to
be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. One way in
which farmers are attempting to revive their industry is through the promotion
of ‘local food’, which markets food directly from farmer to
consumers without transporting it over large distances. Local food in
the UK is currently often the preserve of the white middle class, but
the benefits, such as access to fresh vegetables, and the health-giving
properties they provide, should be available to all sectors of society.
One of the aims of this scheme is to attempt to provide such benefits
to a wider variety of people.
Vegetables used by Asian
communities are currently imported from a wide range of countries. Such
importation is damaging to the environment, and vegetables are often a
number of days old before they reach their destination, causing a subsequent
decline in nutritional value.
Many such vegetables are
successfully grown in allotments and gardens in this country. The knowledge
of those who grow these crops could be utilised by farmers who are searching
for new enterprises, and Asian people could benefit by being given an
opportunity to grow such crops on a larger, field scale. School and community
groups could visit farms to learn about healthy eating, and the origin
of their food, whilst enjoying the recreational benefits that the countryside
can provide. Research has shown that many Asian people feel unease when
visiting the countryside, therefore such a scheme may present an opportunity
to overcome such discomfort.
Growing Asian vegetables within an organised scheme may offer an opportunity
to practise sustainable growing techniques, and to develop ‘best
practise’ for the horticulture industry. Vegetables which are produced
using sustainable methods such as organic growing are often more expensive
than those which are conventionally grown, when they are bought in retail
outlets such as Supermarkets. The creation of more direct supply chains
between the farmer and consumer allows prices to remain lower, rendering
the vegetables more accessible to all sectors of the population.
A number of direct marketing
techniques are now available to farmers. These include Farmers Markets,
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes, and vegetable ‘box’
Most Asian vegetables are
currently sold at markets, and shops owned by members of the Asian community.
These outlets have the potential to be another important supply route
for British grown vegetables if a reliable supply of crops can be produced
at a competitive price. A producer co-operative, or similar scheme may
provide the scope to achieve such goals.
Many organisations have shown
a strong interest in developing a scheme to achieve these aims, and the
framework has been put in place for this idea to be developed into a working
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